PEABODY — Community support continues to pour in for the family of Peabody Firefighter James Rice, who died battling a fire at 5 Hancock St. two days before Christmas.
The latest sign of respect reaches the Rice family from Foxborough, where his wife Amy, children Alyssa, Katelyn and Ryan, and brother-in-law Brian Goldsworthy will be guests of the New England Patriots for tomorrow night's AFC playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium (8 p.m.).
The Rice family will have field passes before the contest begins, hanging on the field with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and will watch the game in front row club seats.
Twelve-year-old Alyssa, 9-year-old Katelyn and 7-year-old Ryan will also be the Patriots' honorary captains for the game.
"They were excited to be going to the game, and to go on the field is really cool," Goldsworthy said of the children's reaction. "To go out on the field and see the players and to meet Mr. Kraft was something that jumped out to them."
Thousands of mourners, including firefighters from all over the country, turned out for Rice's funeral procession through Peabody Square Dec. 30.
Shortly after Rice's funeral, Peabody police officer Justin Cecil and ATF Agent Eric Kotchian had a conversation that led to them reaching out to the Patriots.
"We were talking about going to games with our parents, realizing that they wouldn't have that anymore (with Jim)," Cecil said. "I know the Patriots held a moment of silence for Jim at another game, but we reached out to (Patriots Vice President of Media Relations) Stacey James. It turned out better than we expected."
Eric Kotchian, two years younger than Jim, played football with him at St. John's Prep.
"Initially I was hoping we could get them four tickets to the game and maybe (get the Rices) recognized in the stands. I thought maybe they could pay tribute to them by putting their picture on the giant screen," Kotchian said.